This is another one of my “should just be a Yelp review” because it could be short and it’s going to be negative but I want to talk about the subject more than usual because it’s Peruvian food. As a whole food culture, it has to be one of my favorites, if not my absolute favorite. It’s generally a mix of Japanese, Chinese, and Spanish food. The diversity in the dishes is unbelievable and the development of flavors is unparalleled. One of my go to dishes when in Peru was lomo saltado and I’ve had gallons on gallons of Inca Kola so now let’s talk about Mo Chica.
A few months ago, the LA Times published its list of 100 or so best restaurants in Los Angeles for the year. We were conveniently in Santa Monica for the long weekend at the time. To our dismay, many of the locations listed were very expensive and not places we frequented. Therefore, I arrogantly thought the list was garbage, a mere compilation of advertisements and favors. But how could I be a fair judge without trying the other places? I had to try one and conveniently that ended up being Mo Chica for a second late lunch on a Sunday afternoon. We had Sugarfish (sushi) and I was NOT full. Kai told us that Mo Chica was on the newly formed list and when I saw it was Peruvian, I did not hesitate.
Mo Chica actually reminded me of other New York City Peruvian restaurants that actually were not very good. It didn’t remind me of the good places in the Jersey ghettos and in Peru itself. Nevertheless, I ordered the lomo saltado for takeout. Orders come with two sides but the host informed me that they couldn’t give me sides since it was takeout and the price remained. I was so excited that I had no problem with that (I would regret that). While we were waiting, I saw an employee carrying a six-pack of Inca Kola to the bar. Inca Kola is the drink of Peru, literally, that is what the can says. It tastes like golden bubblegum soda. I told the host to throw that on the take out order so Alana could try some. Then I got the food and bill, so it was time to pay and eat.
15 dollars for the lomo, 4 for the soda. Are you kidding? Four dollars for a can of soda? I can buy a six-pack in New Jersey for $2.50. I can get a two-liter bottle for a dollar! It’s even cheaper in Peru. I know you don’t have to import that stuff so how can it be so expensive? Crazy. And 15 for the lomo? Okay, but without the sides? This better be the best lomo that I’ve ever had. Well as you can see in the pictures, which were taken before I ate anything, I think they forgot half my food. It was the smallest portion of that dish I’ve ever gotten. And what I got wasn’t good! It was okay and they gave me very little rice! It felt like I was robbed.
How can you ruin a dish like this? It’s basically onions, high quality beef, and french fries cooked in a pan with delicious flavors. Even in the bad areas of Lima, for a dollar, I got bigger portions of higher quality product. Safe to say that I have no interest in returning for the other dishes if they can’t get lomo right. And after seeing the portion sizes and prices of the other dishes, I really can’t see what reason I have to return anyways. For other LA locals that don’t know Peruvian food and get caught up in the trend, I hope you enjoy it and keep them in business. They seem like nice people and the service was good. We’ll just leave it at the fact that it doesn’t seem like Grandma and Mom made this food. It seems more like it was the cool son that cared about being trendy and looking fancy, not being authentic and full of flavor.
Disappointing. Please find a GOOD Peruvian restaurant as in my opinion, it is probably the best ethnic cuisine there is. It has everything you need and want and more. Eating Peruvian food really is a great way to stay hungry and fit!
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